Tuesday Tiny Writing Tip #32 – Your Character’s Voice


You’ve got an interesting plot and a well-edited story, but do you know what can still throw me off your book?

You character’s voice.

To say that characters are important to a story is an understatement. They are one of the essential elements. That is exactly why you should make sure they sound right. Remember what I’ve said in 15 Tips for Creating Titles?

Use your audience’s language.

The same applies to your characters. If your story is about a nine year old British girl who moves to the USA with her parents, let her use British English instead of American English and don’t use long, fancy words that a nine year old girl can’t possibly know. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Age
  • Where did the character grow up?
    • country/state/town/neighborhood – any particular slang that is associated with that place?
  • Who the character grew up with and who does your character spend time with?
    • social class – lower social class would probably mean that your character uses slang while higher social class would mean clearer sentence structure and words that might sound fancy and posh to people outside your character’s circle
    • education – keep in mind that even if your character isn’t big on education, if they come from an educated family, they’ll pick something up by communicating with their parents and siblings
    • religion – your character might use “Bless you” often or avoid saying “God” (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) and cussing
  • Personality
    • Is your character shy? Quiet? Rebellious? Cheery and outgoing?
      Don’t tell us your male lead is shy, then have him walk up to some random chick at a party and confidently ask: “‘Sup, girl? Wanna find a more private spot?”
      That’s not shy.
  • Does your character have anything specific about their speech?
    • Do they stutter? If so, is it all the time or only when they are nervous?
    • Do they tend to repeat themselves?
    • Do they have a catchphrase or a common word/phrase (“Oh, my God”, “like”, “so”, etc.) they use a lot?

So, to recap: background, environment, who they spend their time with and personality.

I hope this is going to help you create characters whose personality and words match. If you have any tips about character voice, feel free to share them in the comments and if they ever end up being a Tuesday Tiny Writing Tip, I’ll credit you in the post.

For more information on characters, you can check out these two TTWT:

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